Noted economist Tyler Cowen has surrendered to abject disingenuousness in his desperation to promote Mexican immigration. In an op-ed in the Washington Post
today, Cowen insists that Latino immigrants are too assimilating - or, as he obliquely puts it in the opening paragraph, "we see a higher level of Latino assimilation than is often presumed." That's a taste of what's to come.
Learning English? Not a problem, he insists, because "national magazines such as Hispanic Business (circulation 265,000) and Latina (circulation 2 million) are published in English." Wow - two magazines. What about the full-time Spanish-language stations on TV? He's confident that "in a generation most Latino-interest publications will probably be in English." The problem is that assimilation should mean there would be few "Latino-interest" publications in any
language - but we're supposed to be relieved if "most" are not in Spanish.
What about family values? "Census data show that 62 percent of immigrants over age 15 are married, compared to 52 percent of natives." Note the use of the term "immigrants" here - this particular sleight of hand - interleaving stats on all immigrants with assertions about Latinos is used throughout the article. He then points out that "Latino immigrants are more likely to live in multigenerational households rathe than just visiting grandparents a couple of times a year." Yeah - that's actually bad news, Tyler. Greater assimilation would mean less multigenerational households. His allusions to visits to Grandmother's House is cute - but the multigenerational household is more likely due to teen and other unmarried mothers living home than sweet little gray-haired grannies knitting in the parlor.
Few immigration restrictionists argue that Latinos are lazy, but the myth of the hard-working immigrant is a bit overblown. This might explain why the best factoid a prominent economist could put his hands on to advance this myth is that "data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that Hispanic men are more likely than white men to be in the labor force." What does that mean? Including retirees? Since immigrants pretty much have to be working, wouldn't that bump up the Hispanic work-force totals? At any rate, that's a pretty slim bit of data to support really the only
reason most Americans tolerate immigration at all - because they're supposed to be hard workers.
Are native born Latinos closing the gap? Here's why Mr. Cowen thinks so: "Immigrant Latino men make about half of what native whites do; their grandsons earn about 78 percent of the salaries of their native white friends." In other words, second-generation Hispanic-Americans are only making 78% of white American salaries. That's pretty poor - there should be no gap at all by the second generation in this day and age, particularly given that Hispanics receive preferential treatment in college admissions, hiring, and set-asides.
It's really a pathetic effort. Even ignoring the deception, his arguments are really weak - almost half-hearted. On his own blog, he has been torn to shreds
by knowledgeable commenters when he has made similar arguments. Undoubtedly not used to receiving such merciless drubbings as a professor and pundit, his blog has announced
a more restrictive policy on comments. I read his blog regularly and enjoy most of what he writes - interesting thoughts and some solid economic reasoning - but his slavish devotion to free-trade and immigration leads to some bizarre lapses in logic. I'd recommend that you not rely on economists to understand the effects of immigration - instead use the best analytical tool available - your own lying eyes.